Microbial community response to growing season and plant nutrient optimisation in a boreal Norway spruce forest
Haas JC, Street NR, Sjodin A, Lee NM, Hogberg MN, Nasholm T, Hurry V

Interactions between Norway spruce trees and bacteria and fungi in nutrient limited boreal forests can be beneficial for tree growth and fitness. Tree-level effects of anthropogenic nutrient addition have been well studied, however understanding of the long-term effects on the associated microbiota is limited. Here, we report on the sensitivity of microbial community composition to the growing season and nutrient additions. High-throughput sequencing of the bacterial 16S rRNA gene and fungal ITS1 region was used to characterise changes in the microbial community after application of a complete mineral nutrient mixture for five and 25 years. The experiment was conducted using the Flakaliden forest research site in northern boreal Sweden and included naturally low nutrient control plots. Needle and fine root samples of Norway spruce were sampled in addition to bulk soil during one growing season to provide comprehensive insight into phyllosphere and belowground microbiota community changes. The phyllosphere microbiota was compositionally distinct from the belowground communities and phyllosphere diversity increased significantly over the growing season but was not influenced by the improved nutrient status of the trees. In both root and soil samples, alpha diversity of fungal, in particular ectomycorrhizal fungi (EMF), and bacterial communities increased after long-term nutrient optimisation, and with increasing years of treatment the composition of the fungal and bacterial communities changed toward a community with a higher relative abundance of nitrophilic EMF and bacterial species but did not cause complete loss of nitrophobic species from the ecosystem. From this, we conclude that 25 years of continuous nutrient addition to a boreal spruce stand increased phylotype richness and diversity of the microbiota in the soil, and at the root-soil interface, suggesting that long-term anthropogenic nutrient inputs can have positive effects on belowground biodiversity that may enhance ecosystem robustness. Future studies are needed to assess the impact of these changes to the microbiota on ecosystem carbon storage and nitrogen cycling in boreal forests.

e-link to publication